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Rhonda D Kineman, Manuel D Gahete, and Raul M Luque

The mouse ghrelin gene contains 5 exons (Ex), with Ex2–Ex5 encoding a 117 amino acid preproprotein that is processed to yield a 28 amino acid mature peptide. The current study examined if pituitary (PIT) and hypothalamus (HPT) ghrelin expression is up-regulated in response to fasting and down-regulated in obesity, as previously reported in the stomach. In the process of establishing a quantitative real-time RT-PCR system to accurately assess the changes in PIT and HPT ghrelin mRNA levels, we observed that primer sets located in Ex2 and Ex3 amplified a ghrelin transcript that contained the entire intron 2 (In2). Size and sequence analysis of RT-PCR products using multiple primer sets located throughout the ghrelin gene suggested that the In2-ghrelin variant contains Ex2 and Ex3, but lacks Ex1, Ex4, and Ex5. In2-ghrelin variant mRNA was not detected in stomach extracts, while expression levels were 10- and 50-fold greater than that of the native ghrelin transcript in the PIT and HPT respectively. In2-ghrelin variant mRNA levels increased in the PIT after 24 h fasting and decreased in the HPT and PIT of diet-induced obese mice. These changes may be due to the changes in circulating insulin or IGF-I, since both decreased In2-ghrelin variant expression in a mouse HPT cell line (N6) and in primary mouse PIT cell cultures. The fact that In2-ghrelin variant mRNA levels are dependent on energy intake in the PIT and HPT suggests that this transcript may encode a peptide important in coordinating the neuroendocrine response to metabolic stress.

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Raul M Luque, Manuel D Gahete, Rudy J Valentine, and Rhonda D Kineman

In humans, circulating GH levels are increased in catabolic states and suppressed in obesity. In both extremes, normalization of the metabolic environment normalizes GH release, leading to the conclusion that changes in metabolic hormones and/or metabolites promote changes in GH synthesis and release. Metabolic regulation of GH secretion can be mediated centrally by modulation of hypothalamic GHRH and somatostatin input to the pituitary and/or by direct regulation of pituitary somatotrope function. Although data are available showing glucocorticoids, free fatty acids (FFA), IGF-I, and insulin have direct effects on rat somatotrope function, little information is available regarding the direct pituitary effects of these metabolic factors in primates. Therefore, this study examined the effects of glucocorticoids (dexamethasone (0.1–100 nM) and hydrocortisone (10 nM)), FFA (oleic and linoleic acid, 100 and 400 μM each), IGF-I (0.5–50 nM), and insulin (0.5–50 nM) on GH release and GH, GHRH-receptor (GHRH-R) and ghrelin-receptor (GHS-R) mRNA levels, in primary pituitary cell cultures of baboons (Papio anubis) after 24 h treatment. A commercial ELISA kit was used to determine the amount of GH released into the media, while quantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR was used to determine mRNA levels. To design species-specific primers for baboon GH, GHRH-R, GHS-R, insulin receptor (INSR), IGF-I receptor (IGF-IR), pituitary-specific transcription factor-1 (Pit-1), and cyclophilin A (used as a housekeeping gene) cDNA, sequence data for each baboon transcript were obtained and this data were submitted to Genbank. Glucocorticoids, FFA, insulin and IGF-I treatment did not significantly alter the expression of Pit-1, a transcription factor essential for normal somatotrope development and function. However, as previously reported in the rat, glucocorticoids increased, while FFA, IGF-I and insulin decreased GH release in baboon pituitary cell cultures, where changes in GH release were reflected by comparable changes in GH mRNA levels. In addition, glucocorticoids increased, while FFA, IGF-I and insulin decreased the expression of the GH stimulatory receptors, GHRH-R and GHS-R, without significantly altering cyclophilin A mRNA levels. A role of insulin/INSR pathway, independent of IGF-I, in regulating pituitary function is supported by the fact that (1) IGF-I and insulin significantly suppressed somatotrope function at doses (0.5 and 5 nM respectively) not anticipated to activate their respective receptors, and (2) the baboon pituitary expresses INSR mRNA at levels comparable to or greater than that of tissues commonly considered as insulin sensitive (i.e. liver, skeletal muscle, and fat). Taken together, these results demonstrate that metabolic factors can directly modulate primate somatotrope function through regulating GH synthesis and release, as well as mediating the expression of receptors important in central (GHRH) and systemic (ghrelin) regulation of GH secretion.